Whitacre had read the file on Dr. Sekou Ankrah, prepared for him by the State Department with an unusual level of candor. It seemed that Dr. Ankrah was Western-educated, with medical degrees from Columbia University and King’s College. Not unusual; many young Africans of his generation had gone to school abroad.

More unusual was the route Ankrah had taken: he had walked nearly 500 miles from his home village to a seaport, and worked as first a stevedore and then a machinist’s mate on a tramp steamer. He’d only managed admission and tuition at King’s thanks to a patron acquired (if the dossier were to be believed) at a shoeshine station.

In fact, it seemed to Whitacre that Ankrah would have been happier practicing medicine rather than ruling a country. His New York practice had been thriving up until the point he returned to his native Azania to assume a position in the pro-independence lobby that eventually led to his installment as Prime Minister and then Minister for Life.

The suddenness of the move might have had something to do with Ankrah’s son–a topic that the file made very clear never to broach. Apparently a liaison with a nurse, and daughter of a major benefactor, was as much a scandal in 1938 as 2011.

Quite a journey from that Azanian village to dictatorial power, and thence to a second-rate nursing home in South Africa.

It was 1990. I was 27; I was invincible. And I was working as a courier for International Solutions, LLG. Never heard of them? I’m not surprised; the company was never really interested in publicity, only in getting jobs done and stashing checks in the Cayman Islands. We specialized in getting things where they needed to go, no questions asked, signed and sealed, guaranteed.

Some of the IS couriers were about what you’d expect—tough, ex-military types with pistols under their shoulder, in their sock, jammed up their ass. They had their uses, but IS had found out that, in general, more shooting meant less profit, and the gung-ho Rambo types tended to shoot first and ask questions never. That’s where I came in.

I wasn’t a rippling sack of meat and the only gun I’d ever held had been at IS’s orientation, but the company was more interested in my tongue (silver, of course) and my eye (golden, I suppose, since I wore those terrible 1980’s shades all the time). My first orientation test had been to talk my way into a car-impound lot in LA; my second had been to deliver an unwanted package to a high-security area of my choosing. I passed the first by renting a limo and writing a bad check; I passed the second by studying an FAA badge and pretending I gave a shit about the Red Sox.